Cenotaph vandal pleads guilty

Mohamad Khalid Mohamad Yusop (inset), 33, pleaded guilty to spray-painting an "X" and the word "democracy" on The Cenotaph war memorial (above).

SINGAPORE - A 33-year-old security guard who spray-painted "democracy" and a big "X" in red on The Cenotaph war memorial in April pleaded guilty to vandalism on Monday. He also apologised unreservedly to those he had offended.

The prosecution is now seeking a 10- to 12-week jail sentence for Mohamad Khalid Mohamad Yusop's criminal act, saying he had deliberately targeted a national monument that is unique and irreplaceable.

"For this reason, it is imperative to deter copycat incidents as vandalism of a monument is one too many," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Wee Hao, adding that the act has resulted in substantial public outrage.

The court heard how Khalid, who is single, set off from his home on his day off that April 23 evening with a spray can.

He was looking for a suitable target on which to paint an "X" that could be seen clearly by the public. He went to the Esplanade Park at Connaught Drive and decided to vandalise The Cenotaph war monument.

He sprayed an "X" over the dates "1914 - 1918" on the monument's wall, then the word "democracy" on top.

A couple who saw what Khalid did confronted him. He told them it was art and a revolution.

Khalid, who threw the spray can into a nearby river, was arrested four days later.

It cost $208 to clean up the monument, which was built in 1920 to commemorate the 124 soldiers from Singapore who were lost in World War I.

In 1950, an extension to commemorate those who died in World War II was added.

Defence lawyer Choo Zheng Xi said Khalid, who was drinking shortly before the incident, had committed the offence "in a moment of frustration and intoxication".

He also said his client was deeply remorseful, and also wished to apologise unreservedly to the descendants of all the war dead The Cenotaph commemorates, as well as all Singaporeans, for his "foolish and gravely insensitive" act.

"He recognises that by his actions he has hurt not just the descendants of the war dead, but all Singaporeans who owe those war dead a debt of honour for giving their lives in the defence of this territory in World War I," the lawyer said.

The maximum sentence for vandalism is a $2,000 fine and three years in jail, plus eight strokes of the cane.

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